As the year is picking up steam and the dreaded January hangovers are in full force (interestingly, that drop in energy after the first week of ‘I will redo my life!’ also appears in tropical climates), here’s a couple of quick but fascinating reads to keep you from doing what you should be doing. Enjoy!
Starting out with the bad news: it seems that the FAO has drastically underestimated the drop in fishing rates because they have ignored small-scale and illegal fishing. A new study that painstakingly gathered that data concludes that yes, we are overfishing, and faster than we imagined.
Most fascinating tidbit: “The researchers used many different approaches to fill in the missing data, from hotel invoices for locally bought fish in the Bahamas to information on local fish consumption.”
Of course, you know that, don’t you? Still, tracking the history of the baby carrot’s invention to its takeover as the US healthy snack of choice is mesmerizing. Did you know that 70% of all carrot sales are thanks to baby carrots? Or that US carrot consumption more than doubled after baby carrots were invented?
Most interesting tidbit: “At a time when most ugly vegetables go to waste in the United States, ugly carrots are carved and sold at a premium. What’s more, moving the peeling process to the factory has allowed the carrot industry to make use of the scraps that used to end up in people’s trash bins.” Huh, never thought of them as a solution against food waste, but what do you know..
Venezuela may have a host of economic problems right now, but here comes a success story from its progressive National Assembly: Just before its dissolution, it passed laws that “not only banned genetically modified seeds, but set up democratic structures to ensure that seeds cannot be privatised and indigenous knowledge cannot be sold off to corporations.” It follows countries like Ecuador in an under-the-radar food policy revolution in Latin America, where more and more leftist governments have recognized food sovereignty in text, though the real challenge is the implementation. Still, way to use power before the tables were turned over to the opposition.
Most inspiring message: “In an attempt to decentralise power, a Popular Council has been established, which will join officials and politicians in setting long-term food policy. Ultimately Venezuela realises, the only way to make the vision of food sovereignty a reality, is economic democracy.”
And finally, a refreshingly honest message about the messiness and complexity of corporate social responsibility. Especially a giant like Unilever that produces just about anything faces huge challenges in cleaning up the supply chain of each and every product. Even as they make headway in their emissions and energy use, the article’s case study of soybean production for the famous Hellmann’s mayonnaise showcases contradictions. It’s the usual story: If no sustainability certification exists where the sourcing takes place, the company creates one, and one that is laxer than comparative ones and is not even properly enforced (yet). The article does a good job of being critical but not damning, and recognizing the inherent contradiction in pursuing “sustainability” at the same time as greater sales and profits. And what does sustainability mean, anyway?
Most thought-provoking tidbit: “Even if Unilever could get every farmer in Iowa to plant cover crops, that wouldn’t make its mayonnaise sustainable. Soy is just one ingredient. There are eggs (goal: 100 percent from cage-free hens by 2020, certified by the American Humane Association). There is the container (Unilever introduced new eco-friendly plastic jars and encourages recycling). There is the energy needed for production (Unilever is buying carbon offsets, but it has not installed wind or solar power at the factory in Chicago). And Hellmann’s is just one brand in Unilever’s vast portfolio. Cover crops on Iowa farms don’t help Unilever make Dove soap sustainable, reduce its carbon footprint, improve livelihoods or meet any of the sustainable living plan’s other goals. Mr. Polman himself acknowledges that change in the heartland is incremental at best.”
Happy reading and good luck with your January! I’ll be back with a more in-depth analysis soon!